As the Chinese e-commerce market flourishes, more and more foreigners are looking to capitalize on opportunities in this lucrative space. And one of the best ways to do this is by launching a WeChat store. But despite the obvious advantages of having a presence on WeChat, setting up and running a cross-border e-commerce store via this platform can be daunting for first-timers.
In this article, we’ll walk you through everything you need to know to get your business off the ground on WeChat. From creating your store to integrating payment systems and shipping options, we’ll guide you every step of the way. So read on for all you need to know about cross-border e-commerce via Wechat e-commerce!
What Is WeChat And How To Use It For Business?
WeChat is a multi-purpose social media and messaging platform developed by Tencent, a Chinese technology company. It was first launched in 2011 and has since become one of the most popular and widely used apps in China, with a user base exceeding 1.2 billion monthly active users.
WeChat offers a comprehensive range of features that go beyond traditional messaging. Users can send text and voice messages, make voice and video calls, share photos and videos, and create group chats. The app also supports various multimedia content, including stickers, animated emojis, and location sharing.
One of WeChat’s distinguishing features is its integrated ecosystem, which combines social networking, messaging, e-commerce, payment services, and more. Users can connect with friends, follow public accounts, and share updates on their personal profiles. WeChat also provides a platform for businesses and organizations to create official accounts and engage with their audience through content sharing, promotions, and customer service.
In addition to its social functionalities, WeChat has evolved into a powerful mobile payment platform through its payment service called WeChat Pay. Users can link their bank accounts or credit cards to WeChat Pay and conveniently make payments for a wide range of services, including online shopping, utilities, transportation, and even offline purchases at brick-and-mortar stores.
WeChat’s influence extends beyond personal communication and transactions. It has become a hub for news, entertainment, gaming, and online communities. The platform offers mini-programs, which are lightweight apps within WeChat that provide various services, such as food delivery, ride-hailing, ticket booking, and more.
How WeChat Stores in Mini-Programs Work?
In China, product research or getting recommendations is often done through social media. Recently, this consumer behavior has been expanded from deciding what to buy, to actually buying directly on social media.
A distinct feature of WeChat, not found in Western equivalents, that allows for this purchasing behavior is the so-called “WeChat Stores”.
Merchants with verified accounts, which have coupled their accounts to WeChat payments platforms, can open an in-app store on WeChat.
In this way, (foreign) businesses can sell their goods to millions of potential WeChat customers directly, without the need to guide them to external platforms. And the customers in turn can utilize the WeChat-integrated online payment systems to pay for their ordered goods.
Wechat shop can be under a mini-program version or the normal website version.
WeChat Mini-programs and HTML5 websites look quite similar, although Mini-programs provide a smoother user experience within WeChat.
Why Are The WeChat Shops So Popular Among Users?
WeChat shops have many features that make the shopping experience of Chinese consumers extremely smooth and convenient:
- WeChat payments: the ability to pay from within WeChat, with one click
- WeChat log-in: users are automatically logged in without having to manually enter their email or password
- Automatic address collection: access the list of addresses that users store in their WeChat account (requires user approval), so users don’t have to fill in addresses again.
- Integration with influencer accounts: Influencers can easily link their posts to WeChat stores or specific product pages, so users can buy products immediately after seeing the endorsement from influencers.
- Social sharing: WeChat stores are easy to be shared with friends through WeChat.
- Re-targeting: you can re-target users based on their WeChat Store behavior with WeChat ads or WeChat messages from your Official Account
- Offline access: users can scan QR codes anywhere and access your Wechat stores with ease.
- Customer service: by having customers buying via your WeChat shop, connected to your WeChat public account, you give them an integrated and intuitive way to speak to your customer service: simply by speaking or writing to the WeChat public account
- Native WeChat coupons: your WeChat shop also enables you to easily send discounts to your customers via a WeChat Official Account. This feature enables you to keep your users updated about the latest promotion and keep them engaged with your brand.
WeChat Cross-Border E-Commerce
Foreign companies without any Chinese business license can create Wechat shops with all of their functions and the Wechat shops are linked to their Official accounts.
Products are shipped directly from abroad or through bonded warehouses (we’ll provide details regarding cross-border logistics in the coming part of this series). WeChat cross-border commerce is gaining traction and we can expect even more services and features to make it easier for foreign brands to sell without the need of entering other cross-border platforms like Tmall Global or JD Worldwide.
Payments are made in RMB by consumers and then transferred to your local bank account in your local currency thanks to WeChat’s overseas payment service.
How to Create a WeChat Official Account as a Foreign Company
Besides individual users’ accounts, WeChat offers a range of choices for businesses to initiate a corporate or public WeChat account.
Currently, companies may choose between three public WeChat accounts:
- WeChat Subscription Account
- WeChat Enterprise Account
- WeChat Service Account
Although we mentioned three types of accounts, the enterprise account is mainly for internal communication, and not for brand promotion. For overseas companies that aim to participate in cross-border e-commerce, Service Accounts are generally the best option due to the fact that they unlock a wider range of features enabling marketing, customer service, and sales via (cross-border) e-commerce.
Service accounts appear directly in WeChat users’ contact lists and are, thus, highly visible branding resources.
A foreign company has 2 options to open a WeChat Official Account:
Borrow the business license from a business partner or use a third-party agent to register an account.
It usually takes 7 business days to register Chinese WeChat official accounts. Note that you will need to verify the account annually in order to access some of the features like WeChat payment or advanced API.
If you choose this option, you will not be able to apply for the normal WeChat payment account since it would get linked with the bank account of the company which provided its Chinese business license.
You can link it with a WeChat cross-border payment account or any Western payment solution like Paypal and Brain Tree.
Companies can also apply for a WeChat account with their foreign business license directly through Tencent.
Note that this is not a standard process, it can take two months to finally get the account.
The company needs to prove to Tencent that it wants to do e-commerce in China. It also needs to provide an existing foreign e-commerce website. Tencent charges a 2,000 USD fee to open this type of account.
Tencent can also open accounts for companies willing to heavily invest in WeChat advertising (above USD 1M per year).
If you don’t want to take care of this process by yourself or don’t know where to start, we are here to help! Contact us so that we can discuss details. Here are some of our WeChat services:
WeChat cross-border payment account
You need to apply for this kind of payment service to sell cross-border via WeChat stores. This payment method doesn’t require you to have a Chinese bank account.
When Chinese shoppers buy goods overseas, they can pay in RMB via WeChat Pay. Your local currency will be converted into RMB based on real-time rates.
Major currencies are included: HKD, USD, GBP, JPY, CAD, AUD, EUR, NZD, KRW, THB, SGD, RUB, DKK, SEK, CHF, and NOK.
WeChat Pay settles each transaction with foreign vendors based on the price in local currency. For unsupported currencies, transactions can be made in US dollars.
T+1 day settlement ensures a fast and safe payment transaction.
How to Create a WeChat Store as a Foreign Company?
The best and most efficient way to create a store is to use 3rd party WeChat store providers in order to open a WeChat store just like Western brands rely on solutions such as Shopify, Salesforce Commerce, or Magento to develop their own stores.
The four most popular 3rd party WeChat e-commerce platforms are Weidman, Youzan, JD.com, and Lewaimai.
Weidian is the biggest free platform to create WeChat shops. It enables companies to create stores connected to WeChat via WeChat login, payments, and other WeChat social functions.
Youzan is a domestic WeChat store provider with millions of users in China. Pricing ranges from 6,800 RMB (~1,000 USD) to 26,800 RMB (~4,000 USD) per year depending on features and excluding add-ons.
The best thing about this platform is that the design can be customized and it includes lots of menus and music.
When it comes to trust and authenticity, the JD WeChat store is no doubt the biggest and most trustworthy platform for customers. But this trustworthy reputation comes with a much higher bar of entry.
If you are operating a restaurant and want to offer food delivery service, Lewaimai will be a good platform to look into. This platform is specifically designed for a WeChat food delivery service.
Advantages of selling cross-border on WeChat
The biggest advantage of using unique social media applications, such as WeChat, is that companies can both sell to and, engage with their customers or followers on one overarching platform which is deeply embedded into their everyday lives.
Additionally, compared to other platforms, opening a store on WeChat gives brands a lot of creative space to customize the official store look and content to fit the brand image.
Furthermore, customer behavioral data is easily accessible and shared with official account owners (contrary to large platforms like Tmall and JD, which keep the raw data for themselves), thereby creating a high potential for customer relationship management (CRM). This allows companies to manage and analyze detailed customer interactions and data to improve their sales growth.
Finally, WeChat stores allow brands to interact directly with customers and serve them on a more personal, one-on-one level.
However, WeChat stores can be very competitive; and there is no organic traffic, so brands have to market aggressively to drive traffic to their stores.
We Are a WeChat Marketing Agency in China!
We work extensively in the:
- Mini/Micro Site Development
- Ad Campaign Management
- Content Promotion Strategy (Organic)
- WeChat Content Creation & Formatting
- Reporting & Analytics
- HTML5 Content & Account Development
Why You Should Chose Gentlemen Marketing Agency:
- We are Tencent’s Official Partner
- We have 10+ years of experience in WeChat Marketing
- 10 years experience in WeChat E-Commerce
- 600 projects working with WeChat
- We have a team of Chinese and foreign experts working on your success in China
We offer cost-effective solutions, optimizing your sales results on Wechat and maximizing ROI. We are a perfect match for small anf big businesses and enterpreneurs interested in selling in the Chinese market.
Don’t hesitate to leave us a comment or contact us to discuss your options on WeChat and the Chinese market!